Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and her husband, Joachim Sauer, usually spend their Christmas holidays in Pontresina, a Swiss hamlet near St Moritz. She likes to go cross-country skiing in the mornings—“we assume low speed,” her spokesman, Steffen Seibert joked this week. Nonetheless, she slipped and it hurt. Thinking it a mere bruise, the chancellor flew back to Berlin to give her new-year address. But the pain grew, and an X-ray on January 3rd revealed a partial fracture in her left ilium, the large bone of the pelvis.
Her plight has earned her sympathy, but it will change little. Plans to meet the prime ministers of Poland and Luxembourg were scrapped. But Mrs Merkel will still run her cabinet and take care of business lying down. “Great empires have been governed from bed,” said Francis Bacon. Among Mrs Merkel’s predecessors, Konrad Adenauer did it for a few weeks in 1955, when he was 79 and had pneumonia, as did Helmut Kohl in 1995, after a meniscus operation.
Meanwhile, the situation of another popular German who had a skiing accident over the holidays is far more serious. Michael Schumacher, seven-time Formula 1 champion and connoisseur of risky sports, is still comatose in a French hospital, after falling during a downhill run and hitting his head just before the new year. He was wearing a helmet, but one assumes high speed.